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Describe Difficult Decision that You Once Made: IELTS Cue Card Samples

Updated on 12 July, 2024

Anupriya MukherjeeGautam Kumar

Anupriya, Gautam

Describe Difficult Decision that You Once Made: IELTS Cue Card Samples

Candidates appearing for the International English Language Testing System (IELTS) need to prepare for the speaking section. They receive an IELTS cue card with the topic for this part of the assessment. 

While framing the answer, the focus should be on addressing all aspects of the question clearly and concisely. One of the most common cue card questions asked is, "Describe a difficult decision that you once made.” 

Based on personal experience, candidates can share any relevant incident with details. They can start by highlighting their experience with a tough decision and then explain why they pick one side. 

Candidates planning to study abroad can relate their tough decision to aspects of their study abroad journey, such as choosing a university or deciding to move to a new country.

IELTS Speaking - Cue Card

In the context of the IELTS Speaking test, a cue card is a particular task card assigned to the candidate in the second stage of the IELTS exam. This question is printed on a card provided to the candidate with an expectation from them to elaborate on the issue in 1 to 2 minutes. 

For example, the question may be, “describe a difficult decision that you once made”. Commonly, the cue card contains several questions or points that refer to the topic to help the candidate strategize their answers. Such a format allows candidates to prepare their answers one minute before starting. 

This cue card task is intended to assess the candidate’s ability to express him or herself with good fluency, coherence, and accuracy on a particular topic about language and communication skills and test their vocabulary, grammar, pronunciation, and ideas during a specific period.

Format of "Describe Difficult Decision that You Once Made" IELTS Cue Card

Here's how you can structure your response for the IELTS Cue Card topic: "Describe a Difficult Decision that You Once Made":


Start by providing a short background of the decision that you had to make and how such a decision has been challenging to you.

Body of the discussion:

  • Describe the Decision: Add what the decision was about and why it was complicated.
  • Options Considered: Explain what other possibilities were available to you or what decisions could be made, along with the possible consequences of that decision.
  • Factors Influencing Your Decision: It is necessary to describe the factors considered while elaborating on the decision-making process. These could be personal beliefs, societal obligations, or other prospective targets for a particular period.
  • Outcome: You will also have to explain how your particular decision had a serious positive and negative impact on you personally or professionally.

Describe Difficult Decision that you made once: Sample 1

I believe I have come across a few difficult decisions in my life. However, if I had to select the hardest one, I would choose the college selection process. Growing up, I always wanted to study at one of India’s top engineering schools, i.e. IIT. I spent my entire high school duration preparing for the entrance exams. 
However, the result was disappointing as I did not score enough to secure admission to my choice of institution. Now, I was facing the dilemma of selecting the next best option for my further education.  

I wanted to spend the next four years of my life in a nurturing environment where I could secure my career prospects. It could either be a private or a government institution. The former option promised a holistic college life and overall career development but cost more than I could afford. The latter option was inexpensive but not as enriching due to the lack of practical training and extracurriculars. It seemed like a battle between the expenditure and my personal and professional growth.

After consulting with my parents and teachers, I was able to make the right decision. I decided to enroll in a private institution and directed all my efforts toward academics. My family supported my decision and helped me apply for an educational loan at the nearby bank. Finally, I packed my bags for college and began my journey of becoming a successful engineer.

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Describe Difficult Decision that you once made: Sample 2

Question: What factors do you check while making an important decision? Explain with an example. 

Decision-making is not just a mere skill that goes on the resume but also what carves our path. Hence, it is crucial to analyze all the options closely and weigh all the pros and cons.  

To speak of one of my life instances, I was recently faced with a tough decision while finalizing a job offer. After graduating as an engineer, I decided to join the IT sector or enter the marketing world.  

The IT sector seemed like a safe option due to multiple reasons. Firstly, it offers job security and constant promotions, and secondly, you can always learn about new technology and get a significant pay raise. However, the work in this field did not interest me. 

On the other hand, the marketing sector offered a lesser salary and required more working hours. To make things harder, I was unsure about being successful in this field after studying science in school and college. However, I felt drawn to this field due to the creativity and work flexibility. 

So, after adequately analyzing my situation, listing all pros and cons, and consulting with my parents, I landed on an informed decision. I chose to work in marketing as it was something I had always wanted to pursue. Additionally, this field allowed me to expand my skill set and upgrade my work quality. 

Today, I can safely say that I made the right decision, and it is always better to look for future opportunities than to focus on the present scenario.

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Describe Difficult Decision that you once made: Sample 3

One of the most challenging decisions I've ever made occurred about two years ago when I had to choose between continuing my job in a well-established company and pursuing further education abroad. At that time, I was working in a reputable firm with a decent salary and career growth opportunities. However, deep down, I always harbored the ambition to pursue a master's degree in computer science to deepen my expertise and broaden my career horizons.

The decision was difficult for several reasons. Firstly, I was in a comfortable position at my job, with a stable income and a supportive team. Leaving meant stepping out of my comfort zone and facing the uncertainties that come with moving to a new country and adapting to a different educational system. Secondly, the financial aspect of funding my education and living expenses abroad was daunting. Although I had some savings, the thought of taking on a student loan was intimidating.

I deliberated over this decision for months, weighing the pros and cons. I discussed it with family, friends, and mentors, seeking their advice and perspectives. I also conducted extensive research on potential universities, the quality of their computer science programs, and the long-term benefits of having an international degree.

Ultimately, the deciding factor was my long-term career aspirations and the realization that further education would open up more opportunities for innovation and leadership roles in technology. I decided to accept the offer from a university in Canada renowned for its research facilities and academic excellence in computer science.

The decision to pursue my master's degree abroad was indeed difficult, but it has been one of the most rewarding choices of my life. It exposed me to new cultures, ideas, and ways of thinking. I was able to specialize in artificial intelligence, a field I am deeply passionate about, and the experience has significantly shaped my personal and professional growth.

In retrospect, this difficult decision taught me the importance of taking calculated risks and following my aspirations, even when it means venturing into the unknown. It reinforced my belief that stepping out of one’s comfort zone is often where the most significant growth occurs.

IELTS Speaking Part 3: Follow-Up Questions

When preparing for the IELTS Speaking Part 3, it is crucial to understand that this section of the exam assesses your ability to discuss and elaborate on broader and more abstract topics. 

Here are some follow-up questions related to the topic of making difficult decisions, along with sample answers to guide your preparation:

Common Follow-Up Questions

1. What are the important factors to consider when making a difficult decision? 

Sample Answer: When faced with a tough decision, I always weigh the pros and cons carefully. For instance, when I had to decide whether to move to a new city for a job opportunity, I considered factors such as career growth, family impact, and my personal goals. 

Consulting with my family and mentors helped me see the situation from different perspectives, ultimately leading me to make a well-informed choice.

2. How can people improve their decision-making skills? 

Sample Answer: To enhance decision-making skills, I believe in continuous learning and self-reflection. After making a decision, I often review the outcome and analyze what worked well and what didn’t. 

Additionally, I participate in workshops and read books on critical thinking and problem-solving, which provide me with valuable insights and strategies for better decision-making.

3. Why do some people find it hard to make decisions? 

Sample Answer: Many individuals find decision-making challenging because they fear the potential negative outcomes. For example, I used to hesitate a lot when choosing my college major because I was worried about whether it would lead to a successful career. 

It’s important to acknowledge these fears and try to build confidence by breaking down the decision-making process into smaller, manageable steps.

4. Do you think decision-making is a skill that can be taught? 

Sample Answer: Absolutely, decision-making can be taught. In my opinion, educational systems should incorporate decision-making and critical thinking into their curricula. 

For instance, case studies and role-playing scenarios can provide practical experiences for students to develop and refine their decision-making skills in a controlled environment.

Vocabulary for IELTS Speaking

Improving your vocabulary is crucial for performing well in the IELTS Speaking test. A rich and varied vocabulary allows you to express yourself more precisely and makes your speech more engaging. 

Below are some essential words and phrases that can help you talk about difficult decisions, along with their meanings and example sentences. Incorporating these into your practice can significantly enhance your speaking abilities.

1. Dilemma (noun): A situation in which a difficult choice has to be made between two or more alternatives.

  • Example: "She faced a dilemma when deciding whether to move abroad for a new job opportunity or stay close to her family."

2. Weigh up (phrasal verb): To consider the advantages and disadvantages of something carefully before making a decision.

  • Example: "He had to weigh up the pros and cons of accepting a promotion that required relocating to a different city."

3. Trade-off (noun): A balance achieved between two desirable but incompatible features; a compromise.

  • Example: "Choosing between a high-paying job and one that offers more personal satisfaction is a common trade-off many people face."

4. Contemplate (verb): To think about whether you should do something, or how you should do something.

  • Example: "She contemplated her options carefully before deciding to change her career path."

5. Consequences (noun): The results or effects of an action or decision.

  • Example: "Every decision has its consequences, and it's important to consider them before making a final choice."

6. Resolve (verb): To make a firm decision to do something.

  • Example: "He resolved to improve his work-life balance by setting clearer boundaries between his professional and personal life."

7. Predicament (noun): A difficult, unpleasant, or embarrassing situation.

  • Example: "She found herself in a predicament when she had to choose between her best friend's wedding and an important work meeting."

8. Deliberate (verb): To think about or discuss something very carefully in order to make a decision.

  • Example: "They deliberated for hours before coming to a conclusion about the merger."

9. Repercussions (noun): The unintended consequences of an event or action, especially an unwelcome one.

  • Example: "The repercussions of his decision to drop out of college were far-reaching and long-lasting."

10. Ethical (adjective): Relating to moral principles or the branch of knowledge dealing with these.

  • Example: "She struggled with the ethical implications of her decision to report her colleague's misconduct."

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Important IELTS Exam Resources

IELTS Exam Overview

IELTS is required to be taken by international students and workers who wish to study or work in a country where English is the primary language of communication. Know the complete details.

IELTS Online Test

IELTS Exam Syllabus

With the right knowledge of the IELTS exam syllabus and pattern, cracking the popular English test won’t be difficult.

IELTS Syllabus

IELTS Exam Pattern

The IELTS exam pattern encompasses four major sections, i.e. listening, speaking, writing, and reading.

IELTS Exam Pattern


Describe the IELTS cue card section.

The candidates are presented with a topic on a cue card and allowed between 1-2 minutes to speak on that particular topic. It focuses on the flow of speech, organization of spoken words, word choice, and how words are pronounced.

How can one prepare for the cue card section in IELTS?

Beforehand, it’s useful to learn about standard topics, spend 1-2 minutes talking on random issues, and learn how to structure your response with an introduction, the main part of a discussion, and a conclusion.

What format should one follow while answering the cue card in IELTS?

Follow a structured format:

  1. Briefly name the topic at hand.
  2. Consider the topic’s main points or aspects.
  3. Support the formulated points with illustrations or details.
  4. Try to make a brief round-up.

Are the topics on the cue card repeated?

The topics included on cue cards may, sometimes, replicate in one way or another. Preparing across various topics helps build confidence for any question that may arise.

Anupriya Mukherjee

Sr. Content Writer

Anupriya Mukherjee is a passion-driven professional working as a Content Marketer and earlier worked as a Digital Marketeer. With around 6 years of work experience, she has experience creating high-quality, engaging content for websites, blogs, news articles, video scripts, brochures, and ebooks.

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